Minnesota legislators are considering adopting a bill that would restrict public access to juvenile delinquency records, except in cases where the juvenile committed a violent crime or was charged as an adult.
The bill received strong support last week when it was presented to the State House, as it passed with a 120-13 vote. Supporters of the bill are in favor of restricting access to some juvenile crimes because certain misdemeanors can carry heavy consequences 10, 20, or even 30 years down the road.
A Clean Slate
Proponents of the bill believe that by blocking the public from seeing juvenile convictions, those individuals who have learned from their mistakes can get a fair chance at opportunities later in life. Oftentimes people who have committed a crime as a juvenile face an uphill battle when applying for school loans, finding a job, or securing a home. Northeastern Minnesota Chief Public Defender Fred Friedman said he personally knows people who are still feeling the repercussion of an immature crime they committed during their youth.
“I know a woman in her 30s with a nursing degree and license and she can’t get work because when she was 13 or 14 years old some older guy talked her into delivering a package of drugs from Point A to Point B,” Friedman said. “Why should that keep her from getting work 20 years later?”
As we’ve discussed on our blog before, a juvenile’s brain is still developing well through their teen years. Everybody wishes they could have a “do-over” at some point in life, and this bill could help give those people who have made positive changes in their life a chance to make amends for a mistake they made as a teen.
It’s also important to note that the crimes wouldn’t be completely erased from the record. Law enforcement officials and judges would still have access to the juvenile records, ensuring that appropriate penalties would be levied against repeat offenders. Violent or particularly heinous crimes where the juvenile was charged as an adult would remain part of the public domain.
Another reason why supporters of the bill hope the measure passes is because oftentimes very little information is available on electronic records, meaning academic officials or potential employers may not get the full story behind the alleged crime, said Arrowhead Regional Corrections Executive Director Kay Arola.
“The dissemination of the information is so broad that employers and academic institutions and others are not necessarily able to accurately interpret the data that they are looking at,” Arola said. “So just because I was arrested for a crime, doesn’t necessarily mean that I was convicted or did that behavior, and that’s the kind of fine nuisance that is often missed.”
While some juvenile crimes are more serious than others, some specific crimes can make it nearly impossible to receive a related opportunity. For example:
- Juveniles convicted of a misdemeanor shoplifting charge may find it next to impossible to land a job in retail or sales.
- Individuals who are convicted of drug charges are often denied federal student loans, meaning some teens can’t afford to go to college.
- Underage drinking violations can make it extremely difficult for a person to secure a position in law enforcement.
- Reckless driving charges can prevent teens from getting a job where extensive travel or driving is required.
There is no set date for when the bill may make its way in front of the State Senate, but the strong bipartisan support appears to show that the bill has a good chance of passing. Rep. Carly Melin, who introduced the bill to the State House, said she believes its adoption would be a step in the right direction for Minnesota’s reformed youth.
This (bill) is a way to…recognize the fact that kids make mistakes and this shouldn’t be held against them for the rest of their lives.”
Related source: Duluth News Tribune
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